In wake of President Donald Trump's threats to possibly ramp up military action against Syria this week in response to an alleged chemical attack in Douma, the Syrian military has repositioned some air assets, the Reuters news agency reported, citing US officials.
However, the officials failed to comment whether the Syrian moves would influence the US military plans.
The Syrian side, in its turn, hasn't made any official statement on the military relocation, despite a great number of media reports claiming that Damascus was shifting its forces amid US threats of airstrikes.
Earlier in the day, the US President took to Twitter to call for Russia to "get ready" for "nice and new and smart" missiles in Syria as a response to the alleged chemical attack in Douma. The tweet was followed by another one, urging Moscow to stop what he described as an "arms race."
Media reports implied that Trump and his advisers had been considering a "powerful" military response to the alleged use of a chlorine bomb, deeming it the only credible way to deter further chemical attacks.
Reacting to Trump's harsh tweets, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova struck back, saying that smart missiles must strike terrorists, but not the legitimate government "that has been fighting international terrorism on its territory for several years." The spokeswoman explained the threats of airstrikes as a possible attempt to cover up the evidence proving that there had been no chemical attack in Douma.
Later in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry revealed the analysis of the soil in Douma taken immediately after the alleged chemical attack, which revealed the absence of nerve agents and chlorine-containing poisonous substances.
The tough rhetoric of the US and its allies follows April 7 reports from Syrian opposition media outlets, which claimed that Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons against civilians in the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta. The story was immediately picked up by the White Helmets, who started posting unverified footage of the aftermath of the alleged attack, claiming that up to 70 people had died of "widespread suffocation."
The United States and its allies promptly blamed the attack on Damascus, emphasizing that a "history" of using such weapons by the Syrian authorities was "not in dispute."
While Bashar Al-Assad's government has denied the allegations, arguing that the entire incident was staged, President Trump discussed the issue with his European counterparts, agreeing to work together to hold the perpetrators accountable.